Competing Organizational Needs

Organizations focused on success typically have a number of activities on-going at any one time of varying project lengths, requiring differing investments of financial and human resources. Result: projects may appear to conflict and potentially hamper the organization’s success.

by Jennifer Loftus

Illustration by Agata Karelus, Warsaw, Poland

HOW CAN ORGANIZATIONS ENSURE THAT THEIR IMMEDIATE AND LONG-TERM INITIATIVES MUTUALLY SUPPORT THEIR OVERALL STRATEGIES? Planning and communication are both essential to ensuring the needs of the short run do not overpower those of the long run, and vice versa. Successful organizations first start with a well-delineated strategic plan. Ideally, an organization will examine the following:

1. What the organization currently does well (Strengths),

2. Where the organization has room for improvement (Weaknesses),

3. Opportunities in the external market on which the organization can capitalize, and

4. Threats in the external environment, over which the organization may have little control, which could hamper organizational success.

All tactical implementation steps, or short and long-term goals, flow from and relate directly back to the strategic plan.  If an organizational initiative does not link to the strategic plan, management must immediately question why the organization is undertaking the initiative and take action accordingly.

Detailed communications regarding an organization’s strategic plan are essential to ensure all employees understand where the organization is headed and the path it will follow to get there. Directly linking individual employee activities and projects to the strategically aligned short and long-term goals provides further reinforcement. Additionally, through these communications, employees may recognize potential conflicts or roadblocks not considered by the strategic planning team.  Faster identification allows for swifter resolution and realignment.

Organizations may use an incentive plan as a tactical implementation tool to support goal achievement. A carefully structured incentive plan can simultaneously reward employees for short-term achievements and progress towards long-term goals. Consider the organization that wants to increase net income without decreasing customer satisfaction levels. In the organization’s incentive plan, employees may receive payouts each year upon attainment of annual net income goals, subject to adjustment for a decrease in customer satisfaction scores.  At the end of the long-term period, say three years, employees can receive an additional incentive payout for attaining the long-term customer satisfaction goal. Competing priorities are a given in our world. In today’s business climate, it is easy to focus on the short-term, to the potential detriment of the long-term. Successful organizations balance these competing needs through strategic planning and goal setting, continuous communication, and supportive tools. By keeping an eye on the next three months, as well as the next three years, organizations ensure an environment supportive of success.

The case. A New York City-based service organization with employees across the Us was experiencing high workers’ compensation costs from employee workplace injuries. The nature of the firm’s work made employee safety a critical concern, particularly for skilled and unskilled laborers.

• The SWOT result. The recent strategic planning and SWOT analysis identified cost control as a weakness and important focus for the future. 

• The strategic plan. To convey the strategic goal of “cost control” to employees in terms that resonated with their jobs, the organization instituted a quarterly safety incentive. 

• The plan. During each quarter, management shared current injury statistics with employees through continuous communication. All employees at a specific location would receive a bonus of $50 – $100 for each quarter without injuries or workers’ compensation claims. The payouts from the incentive plan were far less than the savings the firm enjoyed by reducing its workers’ compensation claims.


Illustration by Agata Janus, Warsaw, Poland

Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Winter 2011